What is Insomnia?

Many people suffer from sleeplessness, but what is insomnia? It’s more than just being unable to sleep when it’s time for bed. There are plenty of instances when someone who suffers from this condition can actually fall asleep, however they don’t stay asleep.

They drift into what’s called a type of cat-napping sleep. It can also be defined as being tired enough to sleep but lying down and suddenly feeling wide awake. For people who wake up in the middle of the night and just can’t get back to sleep no matter what efforts they try, that’s also a sign of insomnia.

If you struggle from insomnia, you might not realize that’s it’s a disorder affecting millions of people. You also might not realize that there could be health issues that you might not be aware of going on inside your body.

You can have a very mild, short-term case of this condition, or it could be severe and long term. The severity is determined by the length of time in which it lasts. There are two basic forms of this condition and they are acute and chronic.

Chronic means that at least 1/3 of your weekly sleep is broken due to insomnia. When the condition is chronic, it can begin to affect your quality of life and show up in your work performance and in your relationships as you become unable to deal with the stress.

Forms of Insomnia

The forms of insomnia fall under two labels - secondary or primary. With secondary, it means that the condition is brought about for some explainable reason. That might be caused by a move to a new house and you’re having trouble sleeping in a new place.

It might be brought on by travel and you find that you’re unable to fall asleep in a hotel room. With primary, there is no known cause - and this kind can be very frustrating to live with because there’s nothing you can pinpoint as the reason that it began.

Sleep is meant to refresh us and prepare us mentally and physically for the activities of the day. Most people can handle a day or two of insomnia and don’t consider it a big deal.

What you have to watch for is a pattern of sleeplessness and note when the instances occur. By tracking the times when you can’t sleep, if it does become an ongoing situation, your notes will be able to help your doctor correctly diagnose you and prescribe the right treatment.

For people who have experienced the effects of this condition, they would say that it’s no laughing matter and that it can be difficult to deal with and may even result in a more serious concern like depression.

Causes of Insomnia

During the day, there is so much going on that keeps you occupied. There are appointments, work projects, relationships, errands, home upkeep and more. When you finally hit the bed, your mind is still running as if on a treadmill and the thoughts that go through your head are on a never-ending reel.

The cause of insomnia can be attributed to the day-to-day issues that we deal with. Or more specifically, it relates directly to the amount of stress those day-to-day issues bring with them.

Stress is one of the major reasons why people miss out on refreshing sleep. Sometimes the stress is simple - like going over a to do list. Other times that stress is more serious such as worrying about a sick loved one.

That stress ties in with fear and causes us to lie awake for hours and sometimes the entire night passes without any sleep at all. Worrying about money can cause us to lie awake too. Job loss, marital or relationship problems and the death of someone we’re close to can cause us to not be able to sleep.

Health Issues

Health issues are another reason that we can lose the ability to sleep. Usually, this type of insomnia is secondary. This means that there’s a physical reason within the body that’s causing the lack of sleep and if it’s treated, then the insomnia usually goes away.

Some of those health problems can be things like sleep apnea, diabetes, heart problems, mental disorders, Alzheimer’s disease and reflux (commonly called GERD). That’s why it’s important to seek treatment of any insomnia that doesn’t resolve itself. The sleeplessness could be a warning sign from your body that something’s not right inside.

Medication can also bring on insomnia. If you read your patient inserts carefully, you’ll see that insomnia can be a side effect of taking the drug. If it becomes an issue, have your doctor switch your medication to one that doesn’t cause sleeplessness.

Clock Watching Should Be Avoided

Your body has an internal clock that can get thrown off balance by disruptions in your schedule. That’s why jet lag can cause sleep problems. If you have to travel during a time when you’d normally be asleep, your body might have trouble getting back into its normal routine. Any time your surroundings are altered, it can silently stress your body’s alarm clock.

The cause of insomnia isn’t always limited to just one reason. You can have a combination of health issues or stresses that bring on the sleeplessness. One of the biggest mistakes that those dealing with insomnia make is clock watching.

When you can’t sleep, don’t constantly check to see what time it is. All that does is to create a countdown in your mind – “I have to get up in four hours, I have to get up in three hours,” and so on - and then the stress starts growing as you feel more and more pressure to get some sleep.


  • Insomnia may be a sign of other health issues going on inside your body.
  • There are two forms of insomnia - primary and secondary.
  • Taking notes and tracking times when you can’t sleep may assist in getting a correct diagnosis.

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